Private Equity Firms Turn to Headhunters to Grow Portfolio Companies

September 23, 2015 – NorthWind Partners, a boutique search firm focused on tapping talent for the private equity sector, has recruited David E. Kopf as president of Anaren, Inc.’s Space & Defense Group. Anaren is a world leader in high-frequency technology deployed in space, defense, wireless infrastructure and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The company is owned by private equity firm Veritas Capital.

Brian Thomas, a managing director in NorthWind’s Northern Virginia office, led the assignment which was overseen by managing partner Mark HuYoung (who leads the firm’s private equity practice) and Patrick Gray, a partner and aerospace, defense and industrial sector practice leader. NorthWind concentrates on business & professional services, systems, solutions, and product companies spanning the aviation, aerospace and defense, healthcare, industrial, and technology sectors.

“David’s extensive business development and leadership experience with growing technology-based businesses in the space and defense markets will enhance the capabilities of our Space & Defense Group to expand our customer base, accelerate revenue growth and ultimately increase value for our shareholders,” said Larry Sala, president and CEO of Anaren. “We are very excited to have David join our team and look forward to his significant contribution to the continuing success of Anaren.”

Most recently, Mr. Kopf was vice president of engineering and operations at Astronics Aerosat. Prior to that, he held executive, business development and engineering management posts at Cobham Defense Electronics, Tyco Electronics M/A-Com, and Sanders (a Lockheed Martin Company) and BAE.

Last year, NorthWind Partners placed Conrad Gagnon as chief financial officer of Anaren. The firm has also worked with several other Veritas Capital portfolio companies. Mr. Thomas has completed hundreds of executive searches for clients that range from early stage startups to Fortune 50 organizations across aerospace & defense, intelligence, industrial manufacturing, healthcare and professional/business services.

“Our deep experience in recruiting executives in the private equity space is a mitigation of risk that gives clients, like Veritas/Anaren, assurance that they are working with an advisory firm that is well-attuned to the ever-urgent pace of the private equity market, understands the importance of alignment between investor and portfolio company, and has tremendous access to the type of leadership required for success across the lifecycle of an investment,” said Mr. HuYoung.

The private equity sector is now considered one of the fastest growing practice segments in the executive recruiting industry, with an expanding number of boutique recruiting firms now servicing it coast to coast. Private equity firms have been involved in some of the most notable business deals of the last two decades, but where the action seems to be centered for the boutiques is around smaller, less well-known portfolio companies that make up a widening universe of investment vehicles for private equity firms like TPG, Bain Capital, Silver Lake Partners, Carlyle Group, Kleiner Perkins, Huntsman Gay, Blackstone Group, General Atlantic, Khosla Ventures, and a slew of others.

Aside from the big-branded executive recruiters, all of whom devote significant time and manpower to talent acquisition initiatives throughout the PE space, boutique search firms working alongside these investment brands to provide talent up and down the functional scale include Benchmark Executive Search, ZRG Partners, JM Search, Howard Fischer Associates, 680 Partners, Bespoke Partners, CarterPierce, F.S. von Stade & Associates, Jamesbeck Global Partners, Braddock Matthews, The Flatiron Group, The Corrigan Group, SPMB, a 12-woman specialist search team at Amity Search Partners, SG Partners, Oxbridge Group, Weatherly Group, True, Hobbs & Towne, Waverly Partners, Westwood Partners, Park Square Executive Search, Henkel Search Partners, Whitney Partners Executive Search, Juno Search Group, Long Ridge Partners, Pinnacle Group International, and countless more. Their edge, according to a number of private equity clients: quality, flexibility, responsiveness, and fast delivery of talent.

According to Mr. HuYoung, there is still plenty of money to be put to work by PE firms and investment activity remains aggressive. “As a result, it’s getting tougher for PE firms to stand out in the increasingly crowded mid-market. This also makes recruitment and retention of top talent more difficult for sponsors, which is why NorthWind is experiencing such tremendous growth. Deal-proven CEOs and CFOs are scrutinizing new leadership and board endeavors more than ever, and there are more opportunities to consider than ever,” he said. This burst of activity is leading to a talent shortage, said many recruiters recently polled by Hunt Scanlon Media.

Filling talent pipelines is getting so difficult that a number of private equity firms have simply decided to bring the senior staffing function in-house. Global Equity Partners Plc has launched Kingsman James, a full fledged executive search firm which is already delivering a range of executive recruiting capabilities and leadership solutions services. “We now offer an in-house service to find, qualify and appoint those C-level people crucial to a company’s development,” said Global Equity’s chief Peter Smith.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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